Over the weekend, an Amtrak train was in the middle of expansive farmland out in northern Montana when it suddenly derailed near a switch on the tracks.
The result of the accident was deadly. The Empire Builder traveling from Chicago to Seattle ended up killing three people and sent seven others to the hospital with extreme injuries.
The Amtrak train was carrying 141 passengers and 16 crew members when it derailed at around 4 p.m. this past Saturday right by the small town of Joplin, Montana. There was a total of two locomotives and 10 cars on the train. A total of eight of those cars ended up derailing, some even tipped onto their sides.
Amtrak Train Derailment
As of now, federal investigators are looking into what caused the deadly train accident. According to the New York Post, speed doesn’t seem to be a factor in the train’s derailment. In fact, investigators have determined that the train was going just under the speed limit at the time of the crash.
The train was traveling just under 75 mph when it went off track on a gradual curve, according to the National Transportation Safety Board Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg.
The NTSB will continue to look at video footage from that day to determine what may have gone wrong. This footage is being studied frame-by-frame so investigators can get a look through the engineer’s perspective that day.
As for those killed in the accident, one man, Zach Schneider, has been identified. He was a 28-year-old traveling with his wife to Portland, Oregon.
The entire Amtrak crew is working with a “sense of urgency” to determine what happened that day, according to the CEO of the company Bill Flynn. “The NTSB will identify the cause or causes of this accident, and Amtrak commits to taking appropriate actions to prevent a similar accident in the future,” Flynn said in the statement, according to AP News.
Scene of the Crash
There is also a replacement track ready for whenever the NTSB says it’s time. The Empire Builder currently only goes from Chicago, Illinois to St. Paul, Minnesota.
Investigators seem to think the switch the train approached has something to do with the derailment. It is right when the train was going from a single track to a double track. There could have also been a defect in the rail itself because regular testing can’t always pick up on certain issues.
All in all, we do know that speed was likely not a factor. There are certain systems in place that will prevent excessive speed and collisions from occurring on the tracks.
The first person on the scene was Trevor Fossen. He is a resident of Joplin and had seen a “wall of dust” as he was traveling along a dirt road nearby. “I started looking at that, wondering what it was, and then I saw the train had tipped over and derailed,” he said, according to NPR.
He then immediately called 911 and started to help people get out that were trapped inside of the train. He also called his brother to bring a ladder to the scene of the crash. Some people were trapped on the top of cars after climbing through the windows of cars tipped on their sides.